The Black Eyed Dog and Beyond

Sunday 9 March: Shades
Nick Drake once sang about a black eyed dog who knew his name. The song always resonates with me because the black eyed dog knows my name too. These days we get along companionably and don’t bother each other much but lately he’s moved a little closer to my side. I don’t want to be drawn into that downward spiral so first on set I set myself a brisk, difficult run. The steep ascent at the end of this run is a b*gger but I dig in and tell myself I’ve got to keep going. There is a nasty moment when, gasping for breath, I notice a newly-picked, pink and glistening fragment of a tiny animal backbone. I’m not usually squeamish but this nearly pushes me over the edge and I have to choke back nausea whilst forcing myself to keep running but the sense of euphoria when I achieve my goal makes up for the pain.

The quick fix of a good run enables me to focus on the triggers which have set off this black mood. For help with identifying trigger points I would recommend Grouse’s ‘Mind-boggling’ blog and her post on depression One flash point for me is what I’ve identified as ‘PTG’ or Post Traumatic Guest here at Hotel H where we’ve just waved goodbye to Mil and Dil. Mil is a dear soul but much preoccupied by what she can’t do or can’t eat and Tom and I are worried to note that the list of prohibitions has grown. It means that Mil and I have spent the week inside doing not very much whilst Dil, who is still raring to go, and Tom are off doing jobs on the boat. By the end of the week Tom and I are both at a loss as to how to change the situation; it’s frustrating and draining.

Something else bothering me is a creeping fear which I call ‘When Is It All Going To Go Wrong?’ I hate to tempt fate but life has been good since we moved to west Wales two years ago. After what seemed a never-ending run of truly awful times we have found some clear water; we live in a beautiful part of the world, we are happy in our occupations and between us we have four children of whom we are immensely proud. Why do I have to look over my shoulder wondering if something horrible is about to happen?

Thirdly… book, oh the book! Rewriting has been tougher than I ever imagined and I think a better novel is emerging for it but I have been completely wracked by self-doubt along the way. And I’ve stalled. With only a couple of chapters to revise, breaking off to sit with Mil for a week has made it difficult to pick up my thread again. Still, at least I can do something about this…I can apply my bum to seat and JUST DO IT!

Tuesday 11 March: Light Relief
Okay, I really will apply bum to seat but first a coffee with fellow blogger Preseli Mags who lives across the hills from me. We end up chatting for three hours so, yes, it went well! Mags is delightful company and we’re hoping to venture further afield to meet more PurpleCoo bloggers later in the year. And Julie 'e', if you’re reading this, get blogging again soon, will you?

Hwyl fawr!

Painting is 'Under the Castle' by Tom Tomos SOLD


Milla said…
Keep that dog at bay, Chris and never trouble til ... well, you know the rest. If the bad times want to come visit you can bet your ar*e they will, so don't you call them in! Self-motivation is always bound to have the odd hiccup, so console yourself with what you have achieved so far!!
LittleBrownDog said…
Dear Chris - I can totally sympathise with that "When is it all going to go wrong" feeling. A very good friend advises looking at life as a constantly changing dynamic process and focussing on the good times of the present, and during bleaker times, looking forward to the Joy That Will Return (sorry if that sounds a bit American, but I do find it sometimes helps). And you're doing SO WELL with the book - I am totally in awe of your ability to apply your bum to that seat so constantly. I suspect that last little bit is one of the most difficult, but as Milla suggests, think of all you've achieved thus far and how fantastic it will be when you finally get through that last final slog. (A feeling of which I can only dream...) You obviously can do it - the very thought of your uphill run fills me with a desire to have a quick lie down, so I have every confidence in your ability to apply the same determination where the book's concerned. We're all rooting for you as you close in on that finishing line...

(And thanks for all your good wishes to me and mine - it was really lovely of you. xx)
Pipany said…
Golly Chris, I could have written this - trying to do things to keep it at bay; being kept indoors in a state of not being able to do what you want is fairly gauranteed to bring down the chirpiest of people so no wonder you were tipped a bit closer and add to that the book...nothing like a horrendous mountain to climb to amke you feel like cr*p. Well done you for owning up and you are doing brilliantly with your book - couldn't write one in the first place let alone re-write! xx
Think you have struck a chord with many of us ChrisH. Running, walking, excellent for keeping the black dog at bay.

Feelings of all going wrong - I think these creep in a lot as you get older and have to be firmly banished - the old what if the tree falls on us from Piglet and Pooh's reply - what if it doesn't.

Oh with you on the getting bum on seat - only you can do that though . . .but it is so berludy hard sometimes and here I am reading blogs and doing a fabulous job of avoiding my own book.
Cait O'Connor said…
Glad the meeting went well with PM, I thought you would have a great time. Perhaps I will be able to get together with you both some time this year.
I know what you mean about looking over your shoulder when things are going well as I am just the same. It's cos we have been used to coping with bad times, it's what our 'self' is used to.
Keep a Big Stick by you to beat that dog with!
Preseli Mags said…
Absolutely keep that dog at bay, as Milla says, and come for a coffee any time if it would help! Then you could meet my own, real life black dog, who is Mr Jolly-all-the-time.

Like the others I am in awe of your work on FTT. You WILL get it finished. Anyone with the determination and motivation to run uphills and complete half marathons can also finish the marathon that is writing a book.

So good luck with it and keep saying 'shoo' to the BD! xxPM
Pondside said…
Hi Chris - Glad to hear that the running helped - it's good to have a dependable strategy when things start going south.
You know, when things are all going wrong, we comfort ourselves by acknowledging that the situation "is what it is", so why is it that when things are going well we are so reluctant to say that the situation "is what it is" and just accept it? Like you, I get nervous when everything is sunny for a long stretch!
Hi Chris,

Pleased to know that the meet with PM went well. I can relate with what you say about looking over one's shoulder, everything fab, and then Wham ..... more now as years are flying past.

Keep at it with the Book Chris, you'll get there in the end, know you will. Best of luck.

Love Camilla.xx
Frances said…
Doggie be gone! Chris has got no room for you, she's got all sorts of great things going on in her life now.

Healthy, creative, supportive, determined to finish the book re-write. She's busy now, and don't think that she plans on sending any invites to any doggies.

Bye, bye doggie.

xo to you, Chris!
Sally's Chateau said…
Kick that old black dog into the corner will you ? I refrain from commenting on PTG for obvious reasons !! xx
Lane said…
Ah that black dog. He's the only dog I give permission to kick:-)

Yes you can do it Chris. I've been stalling too, big time.

We WILL do it. Bums on seats!
...and by the time the bum comes off the seat the evenings will be lighter, the sea bluer, the boat will beckon...c'mon Chris this is just the tail end of the winter blues...finish FTT and look forward...poke dog in the eye with a sharp stick....
...and by the time the bum comes off the seat the evenings will be lighter, the sea bluer, the boat will beckon...c'mon Chris this is just the tail end of the winter blues...finish FTT and look forward...poke dog in the eye with a sharp stick....
Flowerpot said…
Best of luck on those last few chapters Chris. I know exactly what you mean and it's even more difficult when you have people staying. Self doubt is so much part of writing I think. But without it, your writing wouldn't be as good as it is. Hope teh black dog goes off witha good bone soon.
Debs said…
It's horrible being a worrier. Mind you going running is such a brilliant thing to do, unlike me who sits and frets with mugs of tea and copious chocolate biscuits.

I'm sure though that you should try not to worry about the bad stuff as if it does come knocking you will surely be able to kick it into obscurity once more and get the better of it. (So says she who is in a fretful place due to ex-h who is being a pain again).
Inthemud said…
Hi Chris
I've tagged you to do the 7 Facts about yourself. Come to my blog for instructions!
elizabethm said…
I do know what you mean about the worries you can do nothing about. You have a great strategy there in the running. Mine is to have a slice of bread and jam which is much less healthy. I like LBD's response about the dynamic process. Focussing on the good things is a remarkably effective way of keeping dogs at bay. I am so impressed with your progress on the rewrite too!
Glad the meeting with PM went well. Bodran and I were talking about whether we could meet you southerners half way somewhere. We don't mind a drive at all so further than halfway would be fine. Hope we can set something up.
Exmoorjane said…
OH crumbs, you've been there and done that one, haven't you - and beautifully too. Totally understand all that you're saying...about the self-doubt and all. But it WILL be a better book, and you will be SO thrilled when it comes out (and then, dontcha know) you will start worrying about whether the next one can be as good.... Ah, why do we do it to ourselves.
YOu mentioned JulieE is that julieirios? Is she still blogging? Would be lovely if she were.

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